Board hires financial advisor to plan for future
The Woodford County Board of Education hired Hilliard Lyons as its fiscal agent/financial advisor Monday. Its action comes nearly two months after a proposed facilities tax to pay for a new high school was voted down during a special election on June 26.
While interviewing four firms interested in becoming the district’s fiscal agent, schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins said their presentations reaffirmed that the district will not have the bonding capacity to build a new high school in 10 years – after the district has paid off nearly all its current debt of $22.96 million.
Board member Margie Cleveland echoed that takeaway at Monday’s board meeting. “… It was very clear what we had said all along, that the bonding potential will not be there when the debt is paid off,” she said.
The estimated cost of $47 million to build a new high school will most likely climb over the next 10 years and if any other building projects are undertaken (by selling bonds), that would reduce how much money the district can borrow to pay for a new high school.
“The district’s going to have some other (facility) needs,” said Hawkins, “so you don’t want to spend all of your bonding on the one project.”
Before making a motion to hire Hilliard Lyons, board Chair Ambrose Wilson IV said he spoke with representatives of other Kentucky school districts to verify the firm’s track record as a financial advisor.
He said the overriding message from those other school districts was “Hilliard Lyons was always proactive. You didn’t have to ask the question. They would help you once they understood what your (financial) need was.” Cleveland said she was “very impressed” with Compass Municipal Advisors, which along with Ross, Sinclaire & Associates and First Kentucky Securities, also made presentations to the board last week.
“I think Hilliard is a very good firm and I would have confidence in them as well,” said Cleveland, “but I just thought Compass outshined them in the interview.”
She and Karen Brock voted in opposition to Wilson’s motion to hire Hilliard Lyons, which gained board approval by a 3 to 2 margin.
Before the vote, board Vice Chair Debbie Edelen asked representatives of Hilliard Lyons (the only firm present at Monday’s meeting) if they’d ever worked with a district on doing phased-construction projects. “Yes, that happens,” said Hilliard Lyons Managing Director Chip Sutherland.
He said those decisions are made “on a case-by-case basis on what makes sense for you. … It doesn’t always make sense.”
Edelen pointed out that the school board has already purchased land for a high school campus adjacent to its middle school campus along Falling Springs Boulevard.
The board unanimously approved an amendment to the district’s new drug testing procedure for middle and high school students. The revised policy removes language from a voluntary form, which indicated the drug test would be at the parent’s expense if they wanted their children in the random drug-testing pool.
Students who have parking permits and drive to school, and those involved in team sports, competitive events and extracurricular activities are subject to random drug testing.
Brock said she’s been told some schools do not have a police officer directing traffic after school. Parents attending the meeting confirmed what she’s been told, and Hawkins said he would “follow-up with the Versailles Police Department because they have traditionally had someone out there in the afternoons.”
Woodford County High School was unable to hire a second engineering teacher because no qualified person applied for the position,
Hawkins said after hearing concerns from the board’s new student-representative Ryan Alvey, a WCHS junior, about the availability of those elective classes for him and other students.
“I can assure that you we will seek somebody out (for that second engineering position) next year,” said Hawkins.
The board will be asked to approve a new half-time music teacher position next Monday because of large enrollments in the music classes at Woodford County Middle School. “We’ve got very, very large numbers in some our entry-level band courses,” said Hawkins. Because it’s a district-wide position, he said the new music teacher could also support needs in other programs and schools.
A total of about 240 students signed up for the middle school’s band classes, according to Chief Academic Officer Jimmy Brehm. He said about 100 sixth-graders are signed up, which he described as “phenomenal, but we’ve got to help support them a little bit.”
Woodford County schools will apply for grants to open youth service centers at the middle and high schools, Hawkins told board members.
“That would be nice, very nice,” Cleveland said, “a long time coming.” WCMS bleachers
The district will be reimbursed by its insurance company to replace the bleachers at Woodford County Middle School, which were destroyed during the July 20 storm that blew through the county, Hawkins said.
The district began July with a total cash balance of $10.838 million and ended the month with $9.286 million, according to Chief Operating Officer Amy Smith’s financial report.
Expenditures included a $1.936 million bond payment.
After Smith pointed out that the food service fund’s revenues and expenditures for July were nearly identical (29,656.35 and $29,072.78), Hawkins said the district served over 12,000 meals in June and July through its summer feeding program. “That is quite amazing,” he added.